When you think of the word “boundary” chances are you may think of a barrier of some kind — like a wall. When I first heard the word boundary in the context of small business, I have to admit, I thought the word boundary had a bad connotation… that creating any sort of barrier would be limiting from a business perspective. The more I learned, though — and the more boundaries we created within our own business — the more I realized how boundaries can actually help us to serve our clients better while also helping us to create more successful, more sustainable businesses too. Today, I’m sharing 5 must-have boundaries worth considering for your small business.
5 Must-Have Boundaries Your Business Needs
As I often share, the beauty of being a small business owner is having ownership over each and every decision — from the products or services your business offers and the client experience your business provides, to the systems and processes your business uses, and every decision in between. The same can be said of the boundaries you create within your business. Because every small business and every small business owner is unique, the boundaries you create will be a reflection of your unique preferences, values, and goals. So, today, as I share about the boundaries we’ve created at With Grace and Gold, I hope you’ll feel encouraged and equipped to determine if — or to what extent — these specific boundaries can play a role in your business.
- Time. The first, and perhaps the most foundational, boundary we created at With Grace and Gold was establishing formal business hours. Currently, our business hours are Monday – Thursday, 7 AM – 3 PM. We chose these business hours, because Andra and I both consider ourselves “morning people.” We feel most creative and can work more efficiently in the morning, so our business hours are concentrated toward the beginning of each day. We chose to keep Fridays as a day off to pursue better work-life balance overall. We believe, when it comes to creating a service-focused, kindhearted, and sustainable business, the time we spend outside of our business is just as valuable, if not more valuable, as the time we spend within our business. As you can see, these business hours are a unique and personal reflection of what we prefer and value within our own business and our own lives. Maybe you’ve found you are more creative in the evening — or maybe you’d like to design your business hours around your full-time job, because, right now, your business is your part-time job. Maybe, in addition to being a business owner, you’re balancing parenthood or with volunteering in your community. When you design your business hours with your unique values and goals in mind, you can serve your clients wholeheartedly within your determined business hours. You can better manage expectations, provide a clearer and smoother experience for your clients, and create work-life balance, too. For all of these reasons, creating business hours can be truly beneficial.
- Methods of communication. Another truly helpful boundary to set surrounds methods of communication. As a small business owner, you may be thinking, “The more available I am, the better experience I’m providing to my clients.” Maybe, as a result, you equip your clients to contact you via phone, email, direct message, a live chat feature, and more. But if you’re discovering that you’re checking your phone and email even beyond your business hours, or if you discover you’re communicating with one client about one project in several places, it may be worthwhile to decide upon a communication boundary. At With Grace and Gold, we outline specific ways our clients can communicate with us during our design process — ways that are user-friendly, helpful, and beneficial to our clients. Best of all, because of the business hours and communication methods we’ve decided upon, our clients know exactly when and how we will respond. When deciding the ways in which your clients can communicate with you, we recommend following a “less is more” approach. For example, can you house your client communication in just 1 or maximum 2 places? Can you use a project management system through which your clients can easily reach you in a direct way? Can you direct prospective clients who try to reach you via direct message to another specific place to contact you? Can you equip your current clients for success by sharing the benefits of using your preferred communication method? By answering these questions, you can determine the way or ways your prospective and current clients can reach you. We truly believe and have experienced first-hand, by solidifying a communication boundary, you can provide more helpful, timely responses to your clients — and create a more elevated, more personal client experience overall.
- Offerings. At With Grace and Gold, we offer both brand design and web design. With design as the umbrella our offerings fall under, we completely understand when prospective or current clients ask for us to create designs beyond brand design and web design — designs like stationery designs, social media graphics, signage, and more. Early on in our business journey, we had to decide, “Just because we can design something, doesn’t mean we’d like to create a new offering or process from which to do so.” We noticed how saying “Yes” to projects misaligned with our goals and overall vision sometimes resulted in saying “No” to the projects truly aligned with our goals. So, we set a boundary regarding our offerings and decided to solely offer brand design and web design — our areas of expertise. We believe brand and web design are the services through which we truly shine and can equip our clients for success. When you are asked to provide a service beyond your wheelhouse or beyond your current offerings, it can be challenging to say no. However, in Episode 038 of Brand It, Build It, we share how to say “no” kindly and professionally — how saying no can actually equip your prospective clients or current clients for success by directing them toward someone who can provide the offering they are seeking with even more expertise. We believe, part of being a successful small business owner is being aware of how you serve clients best — what your areas of expertise are. Being aware of when it’s appropriate to say yes to a project, or when a client will be more successful hiring a different business altogether. With this in mind, another helpful episode to explore is Episode 008: Are you offering too many services? This episode will help you to determine or pare down your offerings with purpose.
- Project minimums. What about when it comes to the financial side of your business? Let’s say your business has a specific package or experience most frequently booked. Over the years, you’ve designed your package with 5 unique deliverables to align with both your areas of expertise and with the most common needs and goals your prospective clients share. What happens when a prospective client asks for just 3 of those 5 deliverables? Can your package be broken down deliverable by deliverable? Should your package be able to be redesigned, or does it serve clients well as it has already been designed? Another boundary we created at With Grace and Gold is a boundary regarding project minimums — the minimum or base project you are willing to complete. Over the past 8 years, we’ve designed and redesigned our client experience, our process, and every detail in between — applying all we’ve learned about how to create a smooth, client-focused process rooted in our clients’ long-term success. So, when we are asked to add or remove deliverables from our experience, we explain the ways in which our experience, as-designed, has equipped our clients for success. We are unable to confidently offer a broken-down version of our experience, because doing so would really shake up our process, procedures, and overall approach to what we do best. Put simply, breaking down a thoughtfully-designed package could change our overall approach and ability to equip our clients for success. As the owner of your business, having confidence in the way you have designed your packages can make all the difference — both for you as the owner of your business, and for your clients, who have hired you to experience your unique expertise.
- Client capacity. The last boundary we recommend creating within your business surrounds client capacity — the number of clients you can confidently and comfortably serve. As your business grows and evolves, you may find your prices elevating to accommodate your client demand and client capacity. Or, you may find you need to hire employees or contractors to accommodate your client demand and client capacity. Whichever path you choose, it’s essential to know how many clients you can comfortably and confidently serve — not only to create better balance within your own business, but also to ensure you’re serving your clients well. As small business owners, it’s very natural and understandable that we often operate from a place of fear or a place of scarcity; what will happen if I say “no” or “not yet” to serving a specific client? What if I never book another client? In the end, we believe it’s more valuable and beneficial to create a recommendation-worthy client experience for the clients you do serve. Not only will you avoid burnout, but you’ll also better ensure the clients you are saying “yes” to are experiencing your best, highest-quality client experience.
Today, I shared about 5 boundaries we’ve created at With Grace and Gold. I’m so hopeful that learning about these boundaries inspires you or equips you to create boundaries you feel positively about within your own business. As a small business owner, so many decisions are within your power and ability — including these beneficial boundaries. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share it on Instagram stories and tag us at @withgraceandgold. We’d love to share your post with our audience!